Where Is The Mercy?

As published in the Health Care for ALL Oregon website:

Mercy Killers brings the human story behind cancer statistics
to Oregon

Cancer has a major impact on society in the United States and across the world. Cancer statistics describe what happens in large groups of people and provide a picture in time of the burden of cancer on society. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 40% of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime: one of three women and one of two men. Additionally, prominent oncologists are calling for support of a grass-roots movement to stem the rapid increases of prices of cancer drugs. More than 60% of bankruptcies in the US are caused by such out-of-control medical expense.

Award-winning playwright/actor Michael Milligan portrays the human face of these statistics, dramatizing the crushing psychological and financial impact of such a diagnosis on ordinary people with his one-man play, Mercy Killers. At the invitation of Health Care for All-Oregon and sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program, Milligan is bringing the play on an Oregon tour in September. His performances will be followed by “talk-back” audience participation with Milligan and local medical personnel and advocates. Proceeds, after expenses, will benefit HCAO and its regional groups

Milligan has performed Mercy Killers hundreds of times in churches, homes and theaters across the land. The play, inspired by his personal experience, chronicles the reality, not just the statistics, of the corporate culture that runs our market-based health care system; of the struggle with insurance companies, drug companies and hospitals that profit from medical distress and then discard terminally ill people when they no longer can pay.

Joe is an all-American apple pie, Rush Limbaugh-loving, blue-collar patriot with conservative values of self-reliance and personal responsibility. His love of country, life and liberty are thrown into question when his wife becomes sick. Suddenly, the American Dream is not what it seems. Joe is being interrogated by an unseen police investigator over the death of his terminally ill wife. His tragic tale of love and anger illuminates the dark side of the American medical system

Milligan was a member of a working group of Occupy Wall Street called Health Care for the 99 Percent and works with the advocacy group Health Care Now. He is committed to theater that tells the story of ordinary people, that allows audiences to see themselves and their experiences reflected on stage. Mercy Killers is a surprisingly tender love story, a cry from the heart, not a prescription. With this play, Milligan delivers a message that must be honored, regardless of ideology.

Bring your friends and buy your tickets now. This is a message you won't want to miss.

Mercy Killers performances are scheduled for:

Portland: Thursday September 17, 8 p.m. at The Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 NE Alberta street. Buy your tickets NOW.  Sponsored by the Portland Health Action Group.
Contact Tom Sincic for more information.

Newport:  Friday September 18, 7 p.m. at the Newport Performing Arts Center,777 W Olive St. Sponsored by HCAO Newport. Ticket price is $15 at the door, with advance sales available HERE. Contact Jerry Robbins for more information.

Albany/Corvallis:  Saturday September 19, 7 p.m. at the Linn-Benton Community College Russell Tripp auditorium, 6500 Pacific Blvd. SW in Albany. Sponsored by Mid-Valley Health Care Advocates. Tickets may be purchased at Grass Roots Bookstore on Second Street in downtown Corvallis and will also be sold at the door. In addition, people can call Tessa Green at 541-961-8436 to have tickets mailed. Tickets will be $10 regular, $7 for seniors and students.

Springfield:  Sunday September 20, 2 p.m. in the Richard E. Wildish Community Theatre, 630 Main St. Buy your tickets NOW. Sponsored by HCAO Eugene/Springfield.
Contact Vicki Anderson for more information.

Florence:  Thursday September 24, 7 p.m. at the City Light Cinemas, 1930 HWY 101 in Florence. Sponsored by HCAO Florence. Advance tickets will be sold at City Lights Cinemas, 2006 Hwy 101, every day between noon and midnight until Sept. 24. They are also available online HERE. Get tickets early to avoid delays the night of the show.
Contact Stuart Henderson for more information.
Eugene:  Friday September 25, 7:30 p.m. in The very Little Theatre, 2350 Halyard St. in Eugene. Buy your tickets NOW  Sponsored by HCAO Eugene/Springfield.
Contact Lou Sinniger for more information.

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The French Way Of Cancer Treatment By Anya Schiffrin

When my father, the editor and writer Andre Schiffrin, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer last spring, my family assumed we would care for him in New York. But my parents always spent part of each year in Paris, where my father was born, and soon after he began palliative chemotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering my father announced he wanted to stick to his normal schedule — and spend the summer in France.

I also didn’t know what the French healthcare system would be like. I’d read it was excellent, but assumed that meant there was better access for the poor and strong primary care. Not better cancer specialists. How could a public hospital in Paris possibly improve on Sloan Kettering’s cancer treatment?

My parents were pleasantly surprised by his new routine. In New York, my father, my mother and I would go to Sloan Kettering every Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. and wind up spending the entire day.

So imagine my surprise when my parents reported from Paris that their chemo visits couldn’t be more different. A nurse would come to the house two days before my dad’s treatment day to take his blood. When my dad appeared at the hospital, they were ready for him. The room was a little worn and there was often someone else in the next bed but, most important, there was no waiting. Total time at the Paris hospital each week: 90 minutes.

There were other nice surprises. When my dad needed to see specialists, for example, instead of trekking around the city for appointments, he would stay in one room at Cochin Hospital, a public hospital in the 14th arrondissement where he received his weekly chemo. The specialists would all come to him. The team approach meant the nutritionist, oncologist, general practitioner and pharmacist spoke to each other and coordinated his care. As my dad said, “It turns out there are solutions for the all the things we put up with in New York and accept as normal.”

“Can’t you think of anything bad about the French healthcare system?” I asked during one of our daily phone calls. My mom told me about a recent uproar in the hospital: It seems a brusque nurse rushed into the room and forgot to say good morning. “Did you see that?” another nurse said to my mom. “She forgot to say bonjour!”

By this time, I had become a French healthcare bore. Regaling my New York friends with stories of my dad’s superb care in Paris, I found people assumed he was getting VIP treatment or had a fancy private plan. Not at all. He had the plain vanilla French government healthcare.

I had read many articles about the French healthcare system during the long public debate over Obamacare. But I still I hadn’t understood fully, until I read this  interview in the New York Times, that the French system is basically like an expanded Medicaid. Pretty much everyone has insurance, it explained, and the French get better primary care and more choice of doctors than we do. It also turns out, as has been much commented on, that despite all this great treatment, theFrench spend far less on healthcare than Americans.

In 2011, France’s expenditure on health per capita was $4,086, compared to $8,608 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization. Spending as a percentage of gross domestic product was 11.6 percent in France while in the United States it was a far higher 17.9 percent.

The final days were harrowing. The grief was overwhelming. Not speaking French did make everything more difficult. But one good thing was that French healthcare was not just first rate — it was humane. We didn’t have to worry about navigating a complicated maze of insurance and co-payments and doing battle with billing departments.

Every time I sit on hold now with the billing department of my New York doctors and insurance company, I think back to all the things French healthcare got right. The simplicity of that system meant that all our energy could be spent on one thing: caring for my father.

That time was priceless.

Full article here.